Business Consulting Leadership

Words and Attitudes that Leaders Need to Understand

Human Interaction = TrustFact: Change your habits/words and you can completely change your influence.

Words and actions matter in today’s business, entertainment and political world. Just look at the controversies in 2017 alone where a wrong word, phrase, or action mentioned in social media or in public caused extreme defensiveness or outright resignations.

The right words or action can motivate you to take your vision and productivity to the next level — but the wrong ones can torpedo your flow or even sink the vision.

Many studies have even found that using positive or negative language can change your brain by impacting the interaction of synapses & genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.

John Maxwell points out that in some situations only 7% of communication is tied to words, 38% to tonality and 55% to body language which means that words are only part of the equation. Now, there are many conditional factors that play in this representation so it cannot be taken and applied formulaically however words do have a major impact on situations. So how can we go wrong in the word category of our communication, simple;

  • Misused words – inappropriate, wrong message words
  • Ambiguous words – Vague may seem like a great idea but it leads to failure
  • Negative words – Positive words always out rank negative
  • Colloquialisms – Cultural confusion a very real possibility
  • Jargon – Industry confusion a very real possibility
  • Misleading words – Intentional spin
  • Brand confusion works – Short term oops that should not occur

Words can reflect in an attitude, perception or confrontation so it is critical that we choose our words wisely but also the attitudes that can be derived from them. Let’s look at some combinations that can make or break your company.

Keep in mind these are but a sampling so you can add more to the list any time you want to.

If you’re serious about moving your leadership and your team forward on the success continuum, here are some attitudes I suggest you examine, change or hang out to dry for a long time, that can be misconstrued by words primarily but also actions.

1) The attitude that “Everything has to be perfect.”

Often, we strive for perfection primarily because we seek approval and praise from others. When we obsess over how others view us, we generally lack positive support, become disappointed, and demotivated.

While you should strive for excellence, you can’t expect to take on new challenges without a few failures along the way. But, there should be no room for errors due to sloppy or shoddy preparation or work since that means you are not seeking excellence in the first place.

Next time you find yourself in this endless cycle of thinking your best isn’t good enough, take a moment to find gratitude for all you’ve been able to accomplish — and then move on. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and live the example for everyone in your life.

2) The Attitude of constantly saying or expecting “Yes.”

Personally, when I say “yes” to everything, I am susceptible to being overextended, overworked, and overwhelmed. I am sure the same is true of your own life but how often, as leaders, do we expect this of our people?

Try to remember that when these things occur it cheapens the value of our time, and blocks us from being able to put our full energy into the things we really want to say yes to. For this reason, you, like everyone else, must be aware of your own needs and priorities. But as a leader you have the added responsibility of protecting your employees from falling into the same trap because they perceive that you are looking for a “YES” all the time.

The key is setting boundaries. Taking ownership and accountability of one’s own time and commitments is critical as a leader and as a good team member. I suggest you capture your commitments to ensure you can meet them or know when to say “NO”. PEERSaaS is an app that can help you do this within your own company.

3) The Attitude that “Busy is always better”.

Busyness is a badge of honor in many sectors of our work life but, we should be focused on productivity not busyness.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors argue that “busyness” is an actual way people signal their importance — and that marketers are responding to it. Busyness is a way of conveying prominence and importance.  A certain amount of feeling of indispensability can be noticed in some. Albeit, it can also get you notoriety.

The tendency to see people who work many hours as more prominent or dedicated is something that likely influences how many managers see their people. While it’s difficult to do, managers should shift their attention to what people are producing, rather than how long they’re in the office. This may be one of the core issues with the reluctance to offer flexible work schedules.  Managers can’t see the busyness.

When you let this attitude drive your organization, people will become disengaged because we are at a point today where everyone is saying the same thing so there is little differentiation. This often leads to an increase in negative thoughts of being underappreciated and negative. Being transparent, upfront and intentional about expectations and productivity can change this attitude.

4) The Attitude that “They will change”.

As a leader, we often see ourselves as “fixers.” Simply put, when we see someone with a problem, or we see some aspect of their personality or behavior to that we want to change, we seize on the opportunity to provide our idea of what is right and to some degree force it upon them.

People will not change unless they want to. So not only is trying to change others futile, it corrupts the relationship between the individuals involved regardless of the environment. Thinking you always have the only right answer is setting yourself up for failure, disappointment or frustration so why not abandon this attitude.

If someone comes to you for help, don’t be afraid to offer your support but don’t force your ideas on them and expect a radical 180-turn in their behavior or response. Solicit ideas and participation when planning major changes within the company, listen and respond, don’t dictate.

5) The Attitude of “I can’t”.

When people say, “I can’t,” we often hear “I won’t.” and this often implies that a person is not willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Many times, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

People often deny being able to do something because they are afraid of failure or disappointing someone. When we’re presented with a new opportunity that would introduce radical change, an exciting new role, or the chance to present in front of a room of senior executives it becomes easier, in our minds, to say I can’t than to face the possibility of failure.

As a leader, you can have a profound effect on the extinction of this attitude. Create an environment that empowers people to take risks and possible fail but encourage them to fail forward.  Help them learn from the failures and grow.

Next time you or any of your people want to say, “I can’t,” examine your motives carefully — is it coming from a place of inability, or fear?

“For better or worse, humans are holistic. Even the human body does best when its spiritual and physical sides are synchronized… People’s bodies perform best when their brains are on board with the program… Helping your mind to believe what you do is good, noble, and worthwhile in itself helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.” — Rabbi Daniel Lapin


6) The Attitude of “Procrastination”.

As Meredith Willson has said — “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”

Procrastination can be a detriment to personal and corporate self-esteem, productivity, and reputation. Many studies over the past decade have also shown that it even has negative effects on a person’s health, well-being, and emotional state.  The same can apply to corporations.

Make proactivity part of your leadership style and empower your people to be proactive. Proactivity must be lived to offset procrastination.

To avoid the time-wasting, emotionally-draining effects of procrastination, provide training and tools that offer good time-management practices like using collaboration software or planners that people can use on a phone, computer, or at a minimum a paper calendar.

Break up goals and tasks into bite-size pieces, and celebrate each win or when you reach one of these milestones. Think about appropriate rewards that people can see helping them expand and grow.

7) The Attitude that “This is the way that it’s always been done”.

“Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?” — Coldplay

This is a direct offshoot of number 6 about, proactivity.

Think about some of the biggest innovations of the last several years: ride-sharing apps. Electric cars. Virtual and augmented reality. These new products have disrupted entire industries because they did things completely differently.

There is more disruption on the way with the expansion of Artificial Intelligence and robotics in the very near future so unless you can dump this attitude it will cost your company a lot of time, money and reputation. You and your people will be constantly battling innovation rather than embracing it and growing as a result.

What if Elon Musk had said “cars have always run this way,” we wouldn’t have Tesla. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and think of new ways of solving a common problem or improving a current process or product, you can be sure your boss and the people around you will take notice.

8) The attitude of “Everybody said NO” syndrome.

Persistence is a skill and an attitude that really needs to be encouraged and nurtured within leadership and all levels of a company.  It is easy to say that everyone said no so I take all my marbles and go hide in a corner.

As an example, let’s use the giant, Apple. It is the largest company in the world based on their market capitalization. We can give Steve Jobs credit for most of that growth.

He’s regarded as a marketing genius and a business messiah, but it wasn’t always that way. Apple’s board of directors fired him at the age of 30, which any rational person would interpret as the ultimate “no.”

That detoured him but it did not stop his vision for Apple. He went on to found NeXT, help create Pixar and then NeXT was acquired by Apple, and the rest, as they say, is history. But if he had taken “no” for an answer, we probably wouldn’t even know who he was today.

“No” is an opinion. One rejection is not generally deadly. As leaders and employees, we must remember that it’s impossible to please everyone, no matter what you do, and that goes for your personal success. Don’t leave it up to someone else. Empower your people to see “no” as a fuel for improvement and growth.

9) The attitude of saying “Never”!

In 1957, Lee Deforest, radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, said “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth—all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.” (Wikipedia)

Only 12 years later, the impossible was done in July 1969.

What if people had listened? How many things we consider indispensable today would not be in existence.  “Never” is just another word for “Won’t”. The implication is that I have, in my infinite wisdom, declared that we have reached a limit or end which cannot be breached.

I look at the work NEVER as a direct challenge to find a way to do that which has been declared unreachable but it must also find a way to be supported by a value structure that is good for all humans. There are some moral lines that we must be very careful around and ensure we have thought through all the implications before we create the impossible.

The greatest success stories are those in which the impossible was accomplished, where that which was thought of as “never” achievable was achieved. The best and greatest have employed the opposite mindset, asking themselves “what if everything is possible?”

Would love to help you and your staff change the focus attitudes to those that build, make transparent and empower everyone to do their best. Just call me at 630-454-4821 or check out my website at